Ramakrishnan Murthy impressed with his uniform voice output and gentle handling of kritis
Ramakrishnan Murthy’s concert was steady and measured, riding strongly on his endearing voice. It was a busy concert with as many as nine songs and several languages. ‘Rama neepai’ (Kedaram, Tyagaraja) acted as a good anchor at the start with some predictable second speed swaras. Purandaradasa’s ‘Ramanama payasake’ in Anandabhairavi, Rupakam sailed without making an impact. Ramakrishnan next sang a poignant Lalitha alapana, with many rakti phrases, including in the upper octaves. R. K. Shriramkumar penned his essay equally melodiously.
Syama Sastri’s ‘Nannu brovu lalitha’ in viloma chapu structure has its own charm, gait and muscle that one just needs to render it competently, without excessive demonstration of manodharma. Ramakrishnan revelled in that task for a delightful outcome. Good enunciation of words and syllables is also his forte. The niraval at ‘Uma sri Meenakshi’ saw Shriramkumar employ soothing phrases that brought out the lure of the raga.
Gentle handling of kritis
Gopalakrishna Bharathi’s ‘Enneramum undan sannidhiyile naan’ in Devagandhari starting from the anupallavi, suited Ramakrishnan’s gentle handling of kritis, again keeping adventurism at bay. His uniform voice output with minimum wrinkles, jerks or strains, is a treat to listen to as his Sri raga alapana also demonstrated. Lest it be misunderstood merely as a god-given gift, a pleasing voice is equally a reflection of the voice culture regimen that Ramakrishnan must have routinised.
He did have to overcome a tentative start to the Sri raga alapana, and missed the fluency that Shriramkumar displayed when his turn came. With short impactful phrases and pauses, the senior violinist made the breezy effort seem fulfilling. ‘Tyagaraja mahadvajaroha’ (Adi 2 kalai, Dikshitar), that has a unique structure with a short madhyama kala phrase in the pallavi itself, was as pristine as the raga itself.
Mridangist Delhi Sairam participated with deft and well-paced strokes and variations for this slower piece. ‘Ri Ri’ is as much a jiva swara as the more popular ‘gaaaa ri sa’ and Ramakrishnan built his swara korvais leveraging such uses. In contrast to the raga alapana, the emphasis was on lower octave swaras for a longer duration. Again, the absence of fireworks or thumps in korvais fitted in with Ramakrishnan’s blueprint.
The tani avartanam by Sairam and Anirudh Athreya (kanjira) was artistic, with soft hands, value inputs (rather than volume) and spacing. That was not the end of the concert, as Ramakrishnan squeezed in several minis, including some beautiful Andal pasurams — first ‘Thoomani madathu’ as a viruttham in Darbari Kanada, Hamir Kalyani and Thodi, and later, ‘Notru suvargam’, filling the soundspace with raga and sahitya lakshanas. ‘Ilamari man nayane’ in Behag by Swati Tirunal represented Malayalam kritis. Ramakrishnan Murthy’s balance between letting the grandeur of the music speak for itself and his own presentation model, makes for a unique listening experience, although structured at times. Shriramkumar, Sairam and Anirudh Athreya towed the broad tenor of the presentation, while fielding their own strengths.